What is emerging in the field of Employability Skills in FE and adult skill is that nearly everyone I speak to in clearly understands the importance and necessity for fostering and showing the full range of Employability Skills and it is easily accepted as central to the purpose of FE. It is explained invariably as providing what employers are increasingly asking for and there is an understanding that those who can not provide it and keep the custom of local businesses will not thrive.
This awareness includes a clear understanding of the new skill around ‘the enterprising mind’. Everyone also recognises the emergence to a position in importance right behind works skills of the softer personal-ability skills; some employers call it the ‘understand about and ready for work’ skills
Nor does there seem to be (as would be expected) any disagreement about embedding these skills into courses, or, in some cases, they may be overtly and discretely taught and presented separately inside a given Unit that might be called ‘Critical Thinking Skills’ or ‘Reflection of professional values’ etc.
What is striking is that most people have yet to work out how this might be supported and presented through technology. Up to now there has been reliance on getting students in front of prospective employers who assess for themselves at point blank range the soft skills in an interview. It also happens during work placements and apprenticeships a re particular capable of supporting this.
Technology is moving into this field. Tesco and Asda amongst others now have an online application process that includes a one-way recorded conversation by Skype so the student’s bearing and ability to communicate is assessed prior to being called for an initial interview.
There seems to be a genuine gulf between wanting to do something and knowing technology can help and should be used, and actually doing it.
Using Mapping portfolios to capture competencies is very strong and that is mainly finding evidence to cover up to 200 competences that constitutes a qualification. While there is some action in these qualifications around capturing professional skills (food handling and food safety in a Kitchen for example and showing dignity and respect to patients as a professional skill in a Care course), it still isn’t able to tackle the long and growing list of personal-ability skills and creativity etc. demanded by employers in the FE and Adult skills world. They rightly want staff who look like and sound like they could positively represent their firm in person and on-line. Heard this very thing from a local employer at a recent college AGM I intended. He was saying that these are more important to him as he was willing to invest time and effort in developing the Work skills needed if it was ‘the right person’. There is also a calculation made that work-ready staff will cost less to maintain in employment and be more adaptable to change and advancement and worthy of investment.
We are finding that those that use technology for capturing, marshalling and presenting the softer skills is an exception rather than the norm.
It is as if the education community is standing on a threshold, having understood the nature of the jump pedagogically, but can’t quite bring themselves to jump into using technology to change all this for the better.
There are some great exceptions but they are emerging as that, rather than the norm.